Leftover Fish

Have you ever had something incredible happen and nobody believed you when you told them? Very few things are as frustrating as telling the truth and not being believed. I wonder if that is how our Lord felt after the resurrection. He had a hard time convincing people that what he had been saying all along had actually happened just as he said.

We continue our post-resurrection appearances stories today as Luke records an encounter with the risen Jesus and the Eleven. They were in Jerusalem trying to figure out what has happened, and they did not believe the women’s account of an empty tomb. Meanwhile, Jesus met two men on the road to Emmaus and revealed himself to them. These men hurried back to Jerusalem to tell the disciples, when all of a sudden this happened:

Luke 24 (The Message)

36-41 While they were saying all this, Jesus appeared to them and said, “Peace be with you.” They thought they were seeing a ghost and were scared half to death. He continued with them, “Don’t be upset, and don’t let all these doubting questions take over. Look at my hands; look at my feet—it’s really me. Touch me. Look me over from head to toe. A ghost doesn’t have muscle and bone like this.” As he said this, he showed them his hands and feet. They still couldn’t believe what they were seeing. It was too much; it seemed too good to be true.

The disciples didn’t believe the women. They didn’t believe the two Emmaus witnesses. Now they couldn’t believe their own eyes. Then, something simple and earth-shattering happened: Jesus ate.

41-43 He asked, “Do you have any food here?” They gave him a piece of leftover fish they had cooked. He took it and ate it right before their eyes.

Somehow it was in this little act of asking for something to eat that the disciples started realizing that this indeed WAS Jesus…their Jesus. It was not a ghost or a fraud. It was truly him. It is interesting to note that just a few verses earlier, the two men on the road to Emmaus talked to him for quite a while, but only recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread when they sat around a table together.

There is something to be learned here. Perhaps it is in the sharing of life-giving essentials such as food and water that we come to know Jesus. Perhaps the simple act of sitting together and passing bread around the table is our best way to explain to doubters and non-believers who the Bread of Life really is. (Maybe we Methodists, with our love of potluck suppers, have been onto something for two hundred years!)

Who do you know that is hungry for Truth? Who in your family or neighborhood needs the sustenance of the Bread of Life and the Living Water?

It has probably been a while since most of us sat down to dinner around a table and shared our faith with someone. Maybe that should be job number one when the pandemic is over. Sharing our witness over a plate of home-cooked food might just be our greatest opportunity for evangelism to folks who don’t know Jesus.

You’re the Witnesses

44 Then he said, “Everything I told you while I was with you comes to this: All the things written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms have to be fulfilled.”

45-49 He went on to open their understanding of the Word of God, showing them how to read their Bibles this way. He said, “You can see now how it is written that the Messiah suffers, rises from the dead on the third day, and then a total life-change through the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed in his name to all nations—starting from here, from Jerusalem!

You’re the first to hear and see it. You’re the witnesses.

We are the witnesses! So let’s go and tell….and eat!

Fishers of Men by MIchelle Robertson

The Power of Love

The power of guilt is something that can overtake an entire life and crush it with the strength of an oncoming avalanche. I saw this firsthand at a women’s retreat I attended many years ago. A participant sought me out after a very emotional worship experience where people were invited to give over their guilt, sins, burdens, and shame in an act of “dying moments.” The invitation was to process those life-long secrets and figuratively place them at the foot of the cross and “die to them” by letting them go.

This particular woman had about twenty years worth of crushing heaviness to lift up. She told me her story in gasps and sobs as we sat under a piano until 3 a.m. It included drug and alcohol abuse, criminal activity, adultery, an abortion she had never told anyone about, and the eventual loss of her marriage and children. It all came spilling out that night. She was dead inside.

Ephesians 2 (Common English Bible)

2 At one time you were like a dead person because of the things you did wrong and your offenses against God. You used to live like people of this world. You followed the rule of a destructive spiritual power. This is the spirit of disobedience to God’s will that is now at work in persons whose lives are characterized by disobedience. At one time you were like those persons. All of you used to do whatever felt good and whatever you thought you wanted so that you were children headed for punishment just like everyone else.

This is exactly where this woman was in her journey. She had lived a life of disobedience to God’s will. She spent her life doing things that “felt good” and subsequently lost her life to those things.

4-5 However, God is rich in mercy. He brought us to life with Christ while we were dead as a result of those things that we did wrong. He did this because of the great love that he has for us. You are saved by God’s grace! And God raised us up and seated us in the heavens with Christ Jesus. God did this to show future generations the greatness of his grace by the goodness that God has shown us in Christ Jesus.

And so here she was sitting with a strange pastor in the middle of the night and it all came out. Her greatest struggle was believing that with all that she had done, God would still be able to forgive her. She kept saying that her behavior was unforgivable. She was unredeemable. She was “unworthy.”

You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of. 10 Instead, we are God’s accomplishment, created in Christ Jesus to do good things. God planned for these good things to be the way that we live our lives.

When she had finally exhausted herself, I calmly asked her if she thought that she was stronger or greater than Jesus. The question took her aback and she said no, of course not. I went on to explain that there is no sin greater than his activity on the cross and so it takes a certain kind of arrogance to think that OUR sin is the one so great and unforgivable that his death couldn’t obliterate it forever. To Jesus, she IS that worthy.

Otherwise the cross is a joke.

The next day, this woman woke up and knew for the first time in her life that she was forgiven, redeemed, and freed of her sins. She was a brand new creation in Christ. Hallelujah!

We are God’s accomplishment. Salvation is not something we possess on our own. It’s not something we did and now we can be proud of ourselves. And the opposite is true: there is nothing we’ve done that is so bad it can’t be forgiven. That’s the power of love.

You were created in Christ Jesus to do good things. Receive his forgiveness and go forth in your new life.

Cleansed by the Water by Jess Spiegelblatt

Known in the Bread

I have always loved the “Walk to Emmaus” passage. It is one of my favorite post-Easter readings. I totally relate to two men who unknowingly encounter the risen Jesus and are so startled by the very notion of a risen Jesus that they don’t know until the very end that they have been walking with the RISEN JESUS!

Let’s be honest. There are many times in our lives when we have failed to realize that the risen Jesus has been walking by our side, too.

Jesus is sneaky like that.

Jesus joins these guys as they are discussing all the events that had just taken place in Jerusalem, ending in the crucifixion. They related a lot of good detail about Jesus, and how they thought he was the Messiah, the One who would deliver Israel. They then recounted how the women had “confused them” this morning by reporting that the tomb was discovered to be empty. Everything was laid out before them, but they couldn’t put two and two together.

Jesus was a tad peeved.

Luke 24 (The Message)

25-27 Then he said to them, “So thick-headed! So slow-hearted! Why can’t you simply believe all that the prophets said? Don’t you see that these things had to happen, that the Messiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?”

Then he started at the beginning, with the Books of Moses, and went on through all the Prophets, pointing out everything in the Scriptures that referred to him.

Can you image any better “Prophets of the Old Testament” professor? The fellows still didn’t get it…but at least they had the good sense to invite Jesus to dinner.

28-31 They came to the edge of the village where they were headed. He acted as if he were going on but they pressed him: “Stay and have supper with us. It’s nearly evening; the day is done.” So he went in with them. And here is what happened: He sat down at the table with them. Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them. At that moment, open-eyed, wide-eyed, they recognized him. And then he disappeared.

In all that is beautiful about this passage, it is the singular moment when Jesus blessed and broke the bread that the power of the risen Lord was revealed, and their eyes were opened.

That is exactly what happens in communion. Jesus becomes known to us in the breaking of the bread. We arrive at the altar, looking for him. When the bread is broken, we know that it is for our sake that the brokenness happens. He broke his body to heal OUR brokenness. That is what we recognize in the bread.

Communion has been set aside in my church for the duration of the pandemic, following the suggestion of our Bishop. Many people have adopted a practice of home communion, and some churches have created online communion. I have a friend who celebrated communion all by herself on Easter Sunday by carrying the elements in a backpack up a sand dune, and taking them as the sun came up. I think that is beautiful. I think it is ALL beautiful. I think abstaining is also beautiful.

I know for me, when I finally am able to take and serve communion, the abstinence from it will make that moment all the sweeter. I want more than anything to be TOGETHER when that happens, and I pray it happens soon.

But in the meantime, know this: the risen Jesus has been walking with us all along.

Walking with Jesus by Janie Serbousek

The Hiding Place

Many years ago I participated in women’s retreats that included a worship session that dealt with helping the participants release long-buried hurts. I was amazed at some of the conversations that followed that session. One in particular has stayed with me. I sat under a piano with a woman until 2:30 in the morning as she told me a life story that involved an affair, an unwanted pregnancy, a secret abortion, a life of regret, self-abuse, and depression. She had released all of that at the altar at the conclusion of the evening, and was finally ready and able to tell someone the things she had carried in her heart for decades. I saw the release, healing, and new start that being forgiven brought to this woman. The transformation was profound. Happy are those who are forgiven!

Today’s Psalm is a reminder that the forgiven are the blessed ones. Other translations use the word “happy” instead of “blessed.” This is a psalm of David, who knew what it meant to be forgiven after carrying the burden of sin for so long. His own foray into adultery, murder, coveting, deceit, and disobedience made him an expert on this subject:

Psalm 32 (ESV)

1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
    and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
    my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

I acknowledged my sin to you,
    and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
    and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah

David gives us first-hand knowledge of the relief he felt after he finally opened up and was honest with God and himself. He felt the heaviness of God’s hand upon him until he finally acknowledged his actions. When he released it, he discovered that God is a hiding place of refuge:

Therefore let everyone who is godly
    offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found;
surely in the rush of great waters,
    they shall not reach him.

You are a hiding place for me;
    you preserve me from trouble;
    you surround me with shouts of deliverance. Selah

Is God calling you to release something buried deep in your soul? Is he saying that it is time to unburden, and let forgiveness be your blessing? Steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord. God wants nothing more than to remove the heaviness of things you have carried for too long. IT IS TIME.

Won’t you let him?

10 Many are the sorrows of the wicked,
    but steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.
11 Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous,
    and shout for joy, all you upright in heart

Happy are the Forgiven! By Michelle Robertson